Alabama Senators Set Odds on Casino, Lottery Package

Posted on: February 24, 2024, 11:51h. 

Last updated on: February 24, 2024, 11:52h.

Alabama state Senators have differing opinions on the chances of a commercial casino gambling and lottery bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month finding similar support in the upper legislative chamber.

Alabama casino gambling lottery
Lawmakers in the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery are deliberating whether to allow residents to determine if the state welcomes commercial casinos and a state-run lottery. If the legislation passes, voters could decide the gaming fate during the November 2024 election. (Image: Shutterstock)

House Bills 151 and 152 seek to initiate a ballot referendum asking residents if they want to authorize as many as seven commercial casinos and allow the state’s three tribal casinos in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka — which currently can only offer electronic bingo machines — to become Class III gaming establishments with Las Vegas-like slots and live dealer table games. The gaming package additionally includes sports betting and the formation of a state-run lottery that could participate in Powerball and Mega Millions.

For the legislative-initiated referendum effort to reach voters, the bills must garner supermajority support in each chamber. That means 21 votes in the 34-member Senate. The gaming package passed the House by a 70-32 vote.

Odds Set

Alabama has considered gaming bills in nearly every legislative session over the past 13 years. No issue, however, has reached voters since 1999 when residents shot down a lottery referendum.

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) told 1819 News, an Alabama news outlet, that he believes 2024 could be different.

I give it a 70-30 chance of passing,” Singleton said, suggesting the odds are around -233 or 3/7. “They [the House] sent us a bill that’s something we can work with.”

Not all of Singleton’s Senate colleagues agree. State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) says he’s personally aware of at least 19 “no” votes in the chamber.

Givhan says the gaming package is too much too quick. He believes many Alabamians want the right to play lottery games but aren’t overly enthusiastic about casinos.

“I don’t know how many people have come up to me and said, ‘I want a lottery. I don’t want casinos.’ This idea that we’ve got to do all these different things and expand gambling dramatically in order to get a lottery — which I think is bad public policy but the people want it and all the states around us have it and they haven’t gone down the toilet yet — I think that’s a possibility,” Givhan said.

There are a lot of people [lawmakers] who are hard ‘no’s’ on casino gaming but say ‘I’ll vote for a lottery,’” Givhan added.

Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed (R-Jasper) is one Republican who thinks handing the matter to voters might be best.

“We’ve had a lot of debate related [to gaming]. We got a piece of legislation from the House of Representatives. They worked diligently. I think you’re going to see legislation moving in the next couple of weeks. It’s an important topic.”

Mississippi, Louisiana Watching Closely

If Alabama legalizes casinos, the biggest losers could be casinos in neighboring Mississippi and nearby Louisiana.

Mississippi’s 26 casinos generated gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $2.48 billion in 2023 — a 3.5% decline, or about $91.3 million — from 2022.

Louisiana’s 15 riverboats reported GGR of approximately $1.76 billion in the state’s 2023 fiscal year that ended June 30, 2023. That was a 2% year-over-year decline.

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